Essay / Literature

Anybody out there interested?

John Mark Reynolds, 2005.

Does any publisher out there want a book? Does anyone want to read the rest of this story?

Chapter One: Messages

Wind. Blowing, tearing wind was the main memory he had of the Dream. He called it the Dream, because it came so often and was almost always the same. It would be dark, the kind of dark that only happens when you are asleep and afraid. And then he would see a circle, spinning like the outside rim of a wagon wheel. The sounds began as he watched the wheel spin, faster and faster. It was the howling, sobbing of a gale passing through a space too narrow for the force of its despair. The spinning wheel, joined by second inner wheel turning in the opposite direction, would begin to madden him. He would shout in his sleep, and usually awake. But not always. On the bad nights, he would pass right through the center of the spinning circles. His body would burn and then as he reached the center begin to feel heavy. It was like being buried alive, but with no coffin, only mud and matter pressing down on his face and soul. Alive. Buried. Buried alive. Until he was there again, and the real dread began. His body pressed against the rough stone of the basement wall. Or was he in the wall, part of it? It was not clear to him. Nothing was clear to him, though at the start he could see some things. The angry men would come in and make a family obey. A papa, gone very grey, with a feeble mamma. Four daughters, some grown up people, an invalid boy, all told to stand against the wall. The voices of the angry men would fill the room, but he could not quite understand all that they said. Orders. Shouts. A mist would begin to cross his mind. One of the family would press against him, not feeling him, as if he were just part of the wall. Her old fashioned dress, with what felt like an iron corset, would tremble. He could feel her fear, and then it was as if his body were no longer there. He was simply the matter of the wall. Buried in it, holding up her shape. And she would scratch with one finger, symbols into the wall, into him. It was this he could feel, that scratching, desperate shaping, attempt at writing. What was it? The feeling as she gouged the plaster with splitting nails drove him further from the room. It was growing harder to see. In the whole scene he could soon make out only a few things: the yellow stripes on the basement wall paper. The cap on the chief of the angry men. Her face, turned to the side, pressed against his face and covering him with tears. Any sound was being drowned out again by the rising of the terrible wind. He could only make out a single word. The father would say it, the same syllable every time, and fire, smoke, sharp pain and ruin would rain down on his mind until he could stand no more. Waking up, he would lay for a long while staring. His body feeling massive, as if he had eaten too much and then eaten again. He could not will to move. And then he could hardly move. Finally, he would sleep. Peter Rupert Alexis opened the flip tab of his morning diet cola. He was stocky, in his mid-forties, with a sedentary job, and could not afford the calories of a glass of orange juice. It would take ten minutes of riding on his stationary bike to work off even one glass. He glanced through the days appointments. A few papers to grade. A seminar on Plato’s view of the human soul. Accountability meeting in the evening. An easy day in the secure life of a tenured philosopher in a small Christian college. He carried his cereal bowl over to the counter. He began to swish it clean with the sponge. His mind was elsewhere. Blue eyes, a bit near sighted now, gazed blankly out of the little half-window over the stainless steel sink. The window of his apartment looked out on the window of someone else apartment. It was raining. Of course, it was usually raining in Rochester, New York in the spring time. An old mug with his graduate school logo stamped in gold on it had his carnation from last nights banquet stuck in it. The white carnation had turned a bit brown. He grabbed a stiff dish towel off of the stove door handle. Swiping the water off the bowl, he put it back in the white metal cupboard that were the norm in his one bed room flat. The towel curved back over the stove handle neatly. He did not even have to think to do these things. He moved about the apartment efficiently. There was little in it to get in his way. A very good audio and visual system in one corner. In another the best computer he could afford. One fraying couch. His indoor bicycle for exercise dominated on entire side of the room. A few folding chairs for the meeting of the group tonight. Books piled about, but few shelves. The major part of his collection was in his office, his real home, at the college. He was getting very worried about the Dream. It was becoming too frequent, last night was the second night in a month it had destroyed his rest. Some of the imagery was clear enough, drawn from twenty years of reading Plato. It was the intensity and repetition that were beginning to frighten him. He decided he would bring it up when the fellows gathered that night. The first to arrive was always Arthur. His wild red hair, combed back, but still sprouting in all directions was the first thing one noticed about the distinguished Arthur Maximos. The second thing to capture the attention were his eyes, unsteady of late, but still the most student destroying pair of blinkers ever born to woman. Once you had seen the Eye of Maximos, the saying went, nothing else was important. Professor of literature at Rochester’s other school, he was easily the best known scholar in Peter’s small circle of friends. Decidedly married to the same woman for almost forty years, Maximos had a fanatics distaste for the single life of his good friend. Just the dust on the furniture in Peter’s otherwise neat house would be enough to send him into his standard lecture on the civilizing influences of the female in history. Not perhaps politically correct, but always studded with verbal footnotes. It had been Maximos who had gathered the little group. They were scholars from different area colleges, interested in their faith, big ideas, and each other. Together, and under the spiritual guidance of their leader, they held each other to the high spiritual standards of the Church. Despite the Spartan conditions, they always met at Peter’s house. He was the only bachelor of the group. And as Maximos was fond of pointing out, there was nothing of any value or beauty to distract them in their quest for Ideas. When they watched a film or listened to music, Peter had the best equipment. No children around to disturb them, or wife to worry about wine stains on the carpet, it was in the words of Arthur Maximos, “As close to a monastic cell for contemplation as this group is likely to find.” “Good evening, Peter.” Peter noted with alarm that in his rush about this morning that he had left his cola can prominently in the middle of his little table. The kitchen and the living room were all one room. He knew what was coming next. The all seeing eye missed nothing. It seized the coke can in its gaze and held it there. “I see that you are keeping your usual dietary and household standards. Meaning, of course, no standards at all. . . As I reminded Maggie last night, you are in dire need. . .” But Peter was delivered from the shame of his cola can, by the arrival of Bartholomew White. The youngest member of the group, in his early thirties, he still had the look of the distance runner. His undergraduate days had mixed physics and track. “A natural combination,” he had once explained to everyone’s astonishment , and his explanation had become sufficiently mathematical to stun the rest of them into silence. He worked in Maximos’ university, in the huge, lavishly funded government projects that no one ever talked about, but that formed the basis of the school’s survival. He had purchased the exercise bike for Peter, and made sure he used it. It was the one piece of furniture in the apartment that could never appear dusty. “Max, leave Peter alone. His free radical status is bad enough without your running on and on about it.” Peter looked at Barth gratefully. Maximos snorted, “Then why,” the old professor was warming to his task, ” why. . . Doesn’t he do anything about it? It is not as if Maggie and I have not tried. . . It is not as if. . .” “As if what?” came the clipped and precise words of the last member of their fraternity. “Don’t interrupt me, Jack.” “I would never think of it. I am changing the subject altogether.” John Warren Smith was tall, much taller than even the lanky Maximos. He flopped down on the couch, dripping coat and all. He was the only member of the group to work most of the time in the “real world.” A psychologist with unconventional habits, he taught part time at the local community college, toyed with obscure ideas, and published in all the best journals. His income was fantastic, almost a legend in the group, from a thriving practice that he supervised from a distance. He tossed a fedora to the opposite corner of the room, snagging it expertly on the handle of the cycle. Jack turned to Peter and said, “It is your night to pick the topic. What shall we discuss?” “I have begun work on Boethius,” Peter replied, “and his notion of Divine time.” Barth looked thoughtfully at Peter. “Time. Interesting topic. Some of the lab types at the College are messing about with that on a theoretical level.” The board room of Douglass University was empty. Almost empty. She sat at the head of the table, drumming her nails on the hard, dark oak. The sound was very loud in the silence of the room. She was wearing a black, tailored pant suit. Her nails and lips were very red. The rhythmic tapping continued. At last the door at the other end of the room opened. A very small man stood framed in the light from the hall way. Portraits of past university presidents, indistinct in the light, looked down on them like wraiths. She spoke very quietly, her fingers never stopping their tense cadence. “Yes.” “We will not get the funding.” “What?” The tiny man looked even smaller as the College vice-president stood up. She was a very big woman. “The political situation simply does not favor such esoteric projects. . .” “Do not tell me about the political situation. Get me the money.” “It can’t be done.” “Then quit. . .” And she looked at him now, sitting back down. This made the small man twist his hands. She somehow looked larger in the high back chair. “I will see what I can do.” “Yes.” The door shut again. One of the red nails moved to a small pin on her collar, a double headed eagle. She began to tap on it. A smile, tiny at first, jerked her face into motion. Her breathing became more rhythmic. She began to hear the sound of the Wind again. It was coming: the Message. By this time the conversation had reached high water mark of the evening. The wine had lubricated them nicely. The preliminary banter was out of the way. “But what can it mean, for God to be outside of time. . .” Jack looked disgusted. His analytic training was offended by anything that could not be quantified. Maximos turned, “Of course, it may be a Mystery. Like the Holy Trinity. Perfectly possible, but super-rational.” “Bother that!” Barth said. “What does it mean?” Peter grunted, “But isn’t that the point, Barth? It has meaning only from within. . .” “You mean we would have to experience timelessness to understand it fully?” Jack moaned. “But not to see that the idea is coherent. . . There is a related discussion in Saint John of Damascus, blast it Peter you have spilled the wine! And it was good stuff too. . . Maggie bought. . . Peter?” Peter gazed forward. His near sighted eyes were too focussed, but not on anyone in the room. His mouth was open. The wine from his glass dribbled over his trouser knee on to the flour. He was hearing the wind again. The large motor roared to life in the basement. Men and women in white jackets scurried about like so many white rats in a maze. The experiment, the last if they got no more money, was beginning. Switches were pulled. More noises. The turbine began to whirl more and more loudly. The woman sat alone still. Her mouth was open. Saliva pooled in the lip gloss in one corner of her mouth, cherry red. Her eyes were closed, but twitching. She began to laugh.

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